Memphis: Force pads lead

MEMPHIS, Tennessee - John Force put another 18 points between himself and his closest pursuer in the battle for the 2000 Winston Funny Car Championship and Steve Johns drove his Castrol Super Clean Pro Stock Truck to a runner-up finish...

MEMPHIS, Tennessee - John Force put another 18 points between himself and his closest pursuer in the battle for the 2000 Winston Funny Car Championship and Steve Johns drove his Castrol Super Clean Pro Stock Truck to a runner-up finish Sunday in the 13th annual NHRA AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Force, bidding for a record-tying 10th Winston Championship, lowered the track record to 4.870 seconds in qualifying No. 1 for the 99th time in his career. He survived a first round engine explosion and then beat Frank Pedregon in round two before losing a narrow semifinal decision to Ron Capps.

Capps, who beat Force for the first time since 1998, went on to win the race and move past Jerry Toliver into second place in points. He trails Force by 290 points with three races remaining. Toliver is 16 points further back in third place.

Johns, the 1992 NHRA World Champion in Competition Eliminator and Crew Chief on the Pro Stock Truck Larry Kopp drove to the inaugural Winston title in 1998, qualified only 14th but knocked off John Coughlin, Taylor Lastor and Jeff Gracia before losing a final round decision to Mike Coughlin.

It was Johns' best showing of the season and his second career final. He won the 1999 season finale at Pomona, Calif., in only his third professional start.

WINNERS: Top Fuel, Gary Scelzi beat Larry Dixon; Funny Car, Ron Capps beat Whit Bazemore; Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. beat Scott Geoffrion; Pro Stock Truck, Mike Coughlin beat Steve Johns. NEXT EVENT(S): 15th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTECâ„¢, Texas Motorplex, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 20-22; 13th annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, Houston Raceway Park, Oct. 27-29.

JOHN FORCE , Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang
Qualifying position: 1st at 4.870 seconds, 304.94 mph.
Race Results: Beat Al Hofmann, Frank Pedregon; lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Force lowered the track record to 4.870 seconds during qualifying but struggled during eliminations when he was penalized 10 points for putting oil on the track in a first round win over Al Hofmann, his first such penalty of the year., Quotable: "Hey, that was a great race (with Capps). Those guys have a great team and they were overdue for a win. We did what we had to do and that was build on our points lead." - John Force

TONY PEDREGON , Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position: 6th at 4.917 seconds, 302.41 mph.
Race Results: Lost to Jim Epler
Notable: Due to damage to two of the new generation carbon fiber bodies painted in Castrol SYNTEC colors, Tony was using John Force's spare Castrol GTX body at Memphis. A new "Dracula" version of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford will debut in two weeks at the O'Reilly Nationals.
Quotable: "We had a chance to make up some ground and just didn't get the job done. I'm just anxious to get to the next three races. We've done well in the past at Dallas, Houston and Pomona and we need a little boost." - Tony Pedregon.

STEVE JOHNS , Castrol Super Clean Chevy S-10 Truck
Qualifying position: 14th at 7.489, 180.14 mph.
Race Results: Beat John Coughlin, Taylor Lastor, Jeff Gracia; lost to Mike Coughlin.
Notable: Reached his second pro final and became only the fourth Pro Stock Truck driver to break the 180 mph barrier. Improved his career best numbers to 7.434 and 180.24 mph in the first round. ROB SLAVINSKI , Castrol Super Clean Chevy S-10 Truck
Qualifying position: DNQ
Notable: Slavinski improved his career best time from 7.562 to 7.495 seconds and his best career speed from 178.05 to 179.71 mph but left Memphis only with the distinction of being the quickest non-qualifier in the history of the class.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Larry Kopp , Jeff Gracia , Mike Coughlin , Scott Geoffrion , Jerry Toliver , Steve J